The Broncos’ trio of receivers combined for more catches in 2012 than eight NFL teams had in the entire season.
But according to Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert, the river may run a bit deeper at receiver than just the Broncos’ big three – and Andre “Bubba” Caldwell could be another playmaking option on the verge of breaking out.
“I think Bubba Caldwell has really turned the page this past spring,” Tolbert said during minicamp in June. “I think he’s made a lot of good plays for us this spring. He’s not only been able to sub in for Demaryius, but also for Eric Decker.”
Caldwell showcased his playmaking ability throughout OTAs and minicamp as another target capable of stretching the field.
The six-year veteran credited having a second year of working with Peyton Manning and learning the Broncos’ offensive schemes for his increased comfort level.
“I’m a lot more comfortable. I know what’s going on.” Caldwell said during minicamp in June. “I know what (Manning) expects out of receivers and where he expects us to be. We just know what he expects and how he wants stuff to be done for us to be effective.”
For Caldwell and the rest of the group, emerging as playmakers in 2013 will require getting on the field and catching passes – something that the understudies have not yet had many opportunities to do as Broncos.
Thomas and Decker combined for 179 receptions, 2,498 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012 – and Welker had 118 catches for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns in New England.
The aforementioned group of receivers was a bit less decorated.
Holliday led the pack with two catches for 17 yards, Caldwell hauled in one pass for 18 yards against Oakland in Week 14, Orton and Robinson were on NFL practice squads, and King was playing college football.
Still, Caldwell is no stranger to being targeted and producing when called upon – he caught 124 passes and six touchdowns during his first four seasons with the Bengals, including 51 receptions in 2009.
It’s a track record signifying Caldwell’s ability to contribute on the field.
Now, he’ll have to earn the opportunity to do it as a Bronco.
Caldwell is a part of a pack of receivers who will compete for playing time and roster spots in training camp – and he believes that the competitiveness precipitated by the Broncos’ depth at the position will only drive everyone to perform at a higher level.
“Competition is always going to bring the best out of people,” Caldwell said. “Having that competition just means getting everybody better and keeping everyone on their heels. Not settling and being comfortable, but getting us out of our comfort level and being the best that we can be for this team.”